’84 Tiger victory parade was a high point in history of Detroit

World Series hero Kirk Gibson waves to the thousands of fans who attended the victory parade in downtown Detroit on October 16, 1984.

World Series hero Kirk Gibson waves to the thousands of fans who attended the victory parade in downtown Detroit on October 16, 1984.

After the Detroit Tigers won the 1984 World Series, the city erupted in a celebration that gained a few unfortunate headlines due to some pesky fan behavior. But a few days later, a peaceful celebration took place at a victory parade that snaked its way through the city, culminating in a love fest in downtown Detroit at Kennedy Square on Woodward Avenue.

That event was broadcast live on WDIV TV and is available on YouTube today, providing a warm glimpse back at a better time in the city that has been gripped in financial hardships of late.

The Tigers completed their five-game manhandling of the San Diego Padres on Sunday, October 14. Larry Herndon trotted gingerly in from left field to make the catch and record the final out of the Fall Classic. After a season where they dominated their competition, the Tigers were top cats in baseball. Though it seemed like a foregone conclusion, the triumph was no less sweet.

The theme of the ’84 Tigers was “Bless You Boys”, a tongue-in-cheek comment from a local broadcaster (Al Ackerman) which turned into an anthem. As the parade wound its way down Michigan Avenue, the Tiger players, coaching staff, and officials were truly blessed by an outpouring of affection from the fans in the city. They reacted with pure emotion and the sights were a rare glimpse at athletes letting down their guard. Here are some of the highlights of the day:

Ernie Harwell being mobbed by admirers as he traveled in a convertible down Michigan Avenue. Ruppert Jones in leather pants. Rusty Kuntz being strangle-hugged by a woman dressed as a pussycat. Team owner emeritus John Fetzer and new “boy wonder” owner Tom Monaghan being pelted with confetti by parade watchers. Sparky Anderson in a plaid blazer sucking on his signature pipe. Jack Morris playfully sitting on Dave Rozema’s lap on the stage in Kennedy Square. Mayor Coleman Young opening the celebration on stage and being greeted by a chorus of boos and catcalls.

“What we see here today, are the real Tiger fans,” Young shouted, most likely in an attempt to gain some favor from the crowd in an age-old politician’s move. “What we have here today, is the greatest baseball team in the world,” Young continued.

His statement was spot on.

Alan Trammell, the World Series MVP, looked sheepish with his smile and “aw-shucks” demeanor. He took to the microphone twice – once to accept a proclamation marking the week as “Detroit Tiger Week,” and the other to address the crowd as their starting shortstop and fan favorite.

Lance Parrish, wearing a tight, striped Izod polo shirt that made him look more like The Incredible Hulk than a major league baseball player, stepped on stage holding his young son in his Popeye arms. Parrish was wearing a pair of sunglasses right out of Hollywood and he took his seat near Aurelio Lopez, Sid Monge, Rozema, and Tom Brookens, who looked essentially the same as he looks today as the team’s third base coach.

In the video we see Howard Johnson and Dan Petry, as well as the distinguished professorly relief pitcher Doug Bair. There’s also Michigan Governor James Blanchard, pressing the flesh and warming up to Sparky, pitching coach Roger Craig, and Monaghan.

When Sparky got to the dais, he spoke briefly – ironic considering his famous tongue wagging. What he said pleased the crowd, but before the days of ESPN and 24 hour sports coverage, it largely went under the radar despite its bravado.

“I don’t think all of you realize just what kind of a team you have, and the kind of people you have. They will not only win this year, they will win in ’85.”

Wooa! A guarantee of a repeat? Well, we can forgive Sparky for his hyerpbole, and he was incorrect of course, but if any team from that era had the makings of a dynasty it was the ’84 Tigers: 35-5 record out of the gate, a franchise-best 104 victories, All-Stars at several positions. They never hoisted the trophy again, but in October of ’84 it seemed like the world was theirs for the taking.

The loudest cheers were earned by Kirk Gibson, the right fielder with the grizzly bear persona whose home run in the 8th inning of Game Five at Tiger Stadium had put an emphatic exclamation point on the Series. In his brief comments to the crowd at Kennedy Square, Gibby referenced his maturation as a player and that famous moment.

“I think you all realize that Detroit, the Detroit Tigers, and Kirk Gibson, we’ve all come a long way together,” Gibby said. “There’s one special moment that happened in the World Series that we all felt was [really a clincher], and let’s hope that we’ll all see this famous pose again …” Gibson then raised both arms and screamed as he hopped up and down on the stage. For the thousands of fans in attendance for the victory celebration, it was like seeing it again for the first time.

Watch the video of the parade here:

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